No Need To Worry About Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp looked visibly annoyed when he had to field questions about forward Mohamed Salah’s recent form:

‘He needed time last year, like we all needed time. And he will take time this season as well.’

The Egyptian international was sensational last term as he smashed in a whopping forty-four goals in fifty-two appearances, helping The Reds to a top four finish in the Premier League and to the Champions League final. Pretty much everything he touched in the last year turned to gold.

If people are expecting the exact same from the maverick attacker this year, then they could be left disappointed.

At the moment, that sensational goalscoring season is an anomaly. His best scoring season previous to his last campaign came at Roma in 2016-17, when he bagged seventeen strikes in thirty-seven appearances. The season before that one, he managed to find the net fifteen times in Italy’s capital.

Now I’m not saying Mo won’t managed to get thirty plus goals this season, I’m just saying it’s not guaranteed.

He’s done well, so far in this campaign, the attacker has scored two and created an assist in his club’s opening six fixtures.

Importantly Liverpool aren’t depending on Salah’s strikes. The forward three are a fluid one and to be at their best this term, I believe they all need to work as one and share the goals.

On the right wing, Mohamed is a terrific threat. His directness and dribbling ability get him beyond players, he then has the craft and vision to create chances for forward partners Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. While his goal tally last season was superb, people often overlook the fact that he created fourteen assists. That’s in keeping with what he was capable of in Serie A during his time in Italy.

Mane has struck four times in the first six games, while Firmino has also grabbed three goals. Between the trio, they’ve also created three assist and scored eight in six games.

It’s also worth noting that Mo Salah’s Reds season last term came to an end with a shoulder injury in the Champions League final against Real Madrid. He then rushed back from the setback to participate at the World Cup in Russia with the Egyptian national team. Then after a few weeks holiday, he arrived back for preseason training with Liverpool.

Has he had a enough of a rest? Is he 100% fully fit? I’m not sure.

He’s also making a defensive contribution. He makes on average one tackle per game and has a 76% passing success rate. Klopp was quick to praise Salah’s defensive ability in his press conference today:

‘On a defensive side, his last two games were outstanding. He’s ready to work for the team in these moments.’

 

The important fact is that Liverpool have won their opening six encounters. They are sitting joint top of England’s top flight and have just beaten Ligue 1 champs PSG in the Champions League.

As long as the team are winning, then that’s the main thing. Salah is still offering plenty in forward areas too.

I’m sure the goals will soon flow again for the twenty-six year old. I just urge him not to lose focus and to remain calm. He can’t snatch at chances nor can he become too greedy as he looks to get himself back on the scoresheet.

If Mo is flying at the opposition and creating for others, then he’ll be doing a right turn for Liverpool Football Club!

 

Can Paul Pogba Make Manchester United Great Again?

Paul Pogba had a terrific summer as he helped France claim the World Cup in Russia.

He arrived back in Manchester amid reports that he was disgruntled, didn’t get on with his Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho and that Pogba wanted to move to FC Barcelona.

That move didn’t happen. The Frenchman had good start to the season against Leicester City and it seemed as though he was starting the Premier League campaign as he ended his World Cup one.

The energetic middle-man has plenty of self confidence in his own ability, so much so that one President Donald J Trump would probably be jealous.

Then the superstar midfielder had two iffy performances, much like everyone else at Old Trafford, as United lost out to Brighton and Hove Albion and then Tottenham Hotspur.

That inconsistency has been the tale of Pogba since his return to Man United in 2016. He shows glimpses of greatness in games and then a week later he can be very ordinary or mistakes creep into his game.

Yet in the last three fixtures United have stepped up a gear and Paul has once again started to shine and dictate games.

Mourinho seems ready to placate his star central midfielder. For the majority of games so far, Jose has had United playing in a 4-3-3 formation a style that we know gets the best out of the twenty-five year old midfielder. It also looks as though in recent fixtures, Pogba has been given the freedom to venture further forward and see as much of the ball as possible. The French internationalist loves the responsibility of being his team’s talisman and it looks as though Mourinho is finally allowing him to become that type of player at Man Utd.

The Portuguese boss has also given the flamboyant Frenchman the captain’s armband on a few occasions this term.

The added responsibility has also seen Pogba take United’s penalties, he’s banged in three out of four during this campaign. After missing a recent spot kick in a win against Burnley, Pogba dusted himself down to score the next one.

He was quick to thank Mourinho for keeping faith in him. Jose was also on hand to praise the player:

“I like the player to have the courage to take a penalty after one that he missed. I like that.”

“He missed against Burnley. The next penalty the team has, he is there to take it, to make it 2-0 and to kill the game for us.”

These things have seen a marked improvement in Paul’s displays for the Red Devils.

He’s seeing more and more of the ball and he’s now showcasing his creative skills, his vision and his wide range of passes that can split defences open. The midfielder is also getting forward more with dynamic bursts from the engine room into the the final third.

His relationships with Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard have always been strong but it also looks as though there’s a growing understanding between Pogba and Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez. Paul has the ability to spot runs and provide the perfect pass for the runners. If Man United are to succeed then their best players need to shine and combine and that includes getting more out of Alexis.

In his opening six games of this season, Man United’s number six has scored four goals and created an assist. His passing success rate is at 81.5% in the league and at 92.6% in the Champions League. He is also averaging around 60 attempted passes per game.

His league passing stats could be higher. Pogba likes to be ambitious with his passing and those world class looking passes don’t always come off but when they do then they can lead to something special.

On average he’s making 1.6 tackles per game, attempting around 1.2 dribbles and around 1.6 key passes.

When Paul Pogba is on form, then he can be almost unplayable. He can dictate games as he sees plenty of the ball and makes superb passes that start attacks.

He was superb against Young Boys in Bern during their Champions League encounter. He dominated the game and United secured a vital away win in the process.

Man United need that Paul Pogba – The creative force, the leader on the pitch and the man that can win games with his unique mixture of drive and skill.

The World Cup winner needs to continue to embrace his new responsibilities and keep on shining!

If he can add consistency to his game then he’ll once and for all prove that he’s one of the best midfielders currently playing.

If he can do that and continually be a match winner, then Pogba could become a great and importantly for the Old Trafford faithful he could also make Manchester United great again!

Rangers Record Fantastic Away Result In Spain

Talk about progress, Rangers have went from being dumped out at the first stage of qualifying in Europe last term against minnows from Luxembourg to claiming a fine away draw in the Europa League group stages against La Liga cracks Villarreal.

You’d be forgiven if you thought that the Scottish Premiership side were on to a hiding after they conceded after just forty-five seconds.

Colombian hitman Carlos Bacca lobbed Allan McGregor giving the home team the perfect start.

The Gers struggled to get up to pace against their experienced opponents. Villarreal were technically sound and seemed to keep the ball with ease. The Rangers midfield were often getting overrun and veteran maestro Santi Cazorla was pulling the strings with his wonderful range of passing.

On the lefthand side Spanish Under-21 internationalist Alfonso Pedraza was a constant threat.

As the first half was coming to an end, Rangers started to push further forward and although they weren’t creating chances they were at least venturing into the opposition’s half and starting to keep the ball a bit more.

Left-back Borna Barisic was starting to become a useful outlet as he was usually on hand overlapping on the left flank.

Not for the first time this season, The Light Blues have managed to step it up a gear after a half-time team-talk from gaffer Steven Gerrard.

You could see that they started believing that they could attack El Submarine Amarillo and get some positive results by putting the Spaniards on the back foot.

Centre back Connor Goldson became more composed as the game went on and Bacca became less of a threat, although the Colombian did miss a guilt edged header later on.

Captain James Tavernier was another Gers player that visibly looked better after the break as he started charging forward more.

Then in the sixty-seventh minute Rangers grabbed an equaliser with their first attempt at their opponents goal. Tavernier was at the heart of it as he broke forward and got into the opposing penalty area, he could of had a penalty but advantage was played and Daniel Candeias cut the ball back and midfielder Scott Arfield side footed the ball into the back of the net.

Alas, Villarreal took just two minutes to regain the lead. It was almost as if the La Liga side had woken up due to Arfield’s strike and went out instantly to get back in front. Substitute Moreno Gerard cut inside, leaving Barisic in his wake, and slammed the ball expertly in at near post.

Rangers didn’t give up, a quality that has summed up their term thus far under new boss Gerrard.

Their own substitute, winger Glenn Middleton, was flung on and he made an impressive, immediate impact with his directness, vision and his pace. It was a joy to see a young Scottish winger show no fear and just play to his strengths in an important European tie.

On the seventy-fifth minute, Middleton expertly played in Barisic with a fine pass down the left wing. The fullback’s pace took him away from the Villarreal right-back. His low cross instinctively picked out lone forward Kyle Lafferty, who steered the ball home and sent the away support into dreamland.

The Gers manager was quick to praise Lafferty after the game:

“It’s not a surprise to me he scored tonight, it’s the reason I played him, it’s the reason I bought him and wanted him back here because I know he likes the big stage.”

A special mention for goalie Allan McGregor, who once again produced the goods when it mattered. His terrific save from Ramiro Funes Mori’s volley that was coming at him low and at pace kept Rangers in the game.

Game management has been an issue in the past for Steven Gerrard’s men during this campaign. But in Spain they managed to comeback twice and then hold on and get a vital away point.

It wasn’t a vintage performance and the home side were easier on the eye but Rangers showed courage and didn’t go out and park the bus or wilt under pressure.

Rangers have come along way under their new manager and their European performances have been superb this season!

 

Arsenal Should Be Keen On Lille’s Nicolas Pepe

Arsenal are one of many clubs across Europe that are reportedly interested in Lille OSC whizkid Nicolas Pepe.

The Ivory Coast international has hit the ground running this term; scoring four goals and creating three assists in his opening five Ligue 1 encounters.

Last term (in his debut year at Lille) Pepe struck thirteen goals and had three assists to his name, not at all bad when you consider the disappointing campaign that Les Dogues had in the French top flight in 2017-18.

Things have certainly perked up for the club this season and Nicolas has been at the heart of all that’s good with the former Ligue 1 winners. If he’s not scoring then he’s assisting and if he’s not assisting then he’s the one that sets-up the player that gets the final assist.

Pepe is a left footed right winger, as you can imagine that means he has a liking for cutting inside. He possesses good close control of the ball, likes a dribble, is strong enough to hold off opponents and has the pace to take him away from defenders too.

The twenty-three year old has good awareness of what’s going on around him, meaning he’ll usually make the right decisions when it comes to passing or shooting when the chance arises. Many a winger just get their head down and head to the byline before crossing into the box without really looking up, whereas Pepe has the instinct to look up and his ability to cut inside from deeper positions makes it difficult for defenders trying to mark him.

The talented attacker is often composed in front of goal; he’s keen on coming in and finishing his chances calmly with a side footed effort.

In Lille’s recent win over Amiens, Nicolas grabbed himself a hatttrick which included two penalty strikes. This again shows you the self confidence the wide-man has in his own ability and his composure in front of goal. Tellingly, the Ivorian also won both penalties too.

The Gunners still seem a bit slow at times especially when transitioning from defending to attacking positions. Having the speed and trickery of Pepe on the right flank could be a great outlet that get’s Unai Emery’s men into the final third quicker than they’re managing at the moment. Nicolas is very direct and he’s always looking to break into the box and seems determined to create as many chances as possible, for himself or his teammates.

Lille have a rich history of developing and finding exciting attacking stars; with the likes of Peter Odemwinge, Gervinho and of course Eden Hazard all making the grade at Les Dogues. It seems like Nicolas Pepe is on course in joining those guys in shining for Lille and having a bright future at a top team elsewhere in Europe.

He might still be a bit raw but his hunger to succeed and his ability is unquestionable. Talk is that Manchester United and Barcelona are also tracking the player. That could see his potential fee rise, that will continue to happen if he maintains his current fine form.

In my opinion, Arsenal should act quickly and try and tie the player down. Maybe they could do a deal in January and allow the Ivorian to stay on at Lille until the end of current season and then have Pepe raring to go come next August.

Mourinho’s Man United Should Target Fiorentina Winger Federico Chiesa

Manchester United are looking brighter, Jose Mourinho’s side have won their last three games after beating Young Boys tonight in the Champions League.

Those victories don’t completely paper over the cracks at Old Trafford and you’d expect the Portuguese boss will want to recruit a few new faces when the transfer window reopens in January.

A new centre-back will probably be a priority but I’d also suggest a new right winger could do the United squad a world of good.

Youngster Marcus Rashford still doesn’t look at his best when he’s forced to play out on the right flank. Juan Mata does a job but he doesn’t have the pace to really attack full-backs and put them directly on the back foot. England international Jesse Lingard gives you plenty of endeavour but he seems more suited in the hole playing through the middle behind main striker Romelu Lukaku.

With all that in mind, I’d urge Man United’s recruitment team to head to Florence and check-out Fiorentina’s young team. I think right sided forward Federico Chiesa would certainly catch their eye!

Federico has shone for The Viola since he broke into their first team in 2016. The attacker comes come good stock as he’s the son of former classy Italian striker Enrico Chiesa and is widely regarded as one of Europe’s best up and coming footballers.

The twenty year old has been highly impressive in the last twelve months, which has seen him win his first cap for Italy and he’s now earned seven appearances for the Azzurri.

The Fiorentina man has scored ten Serie A goals in his first sixty-seven Italian top flight appearances, not bad at all for a young wide player. Federico does seem to favour cutting in and lashing the ball home when it comes to scoring his goals.

Chiesa posses a great turn of pace and the skills that causes opposition full-backs no end of troubles. He’s also able to use either foot; he can play on either wing and isn’t easy to read. The young, raw talent has good close control and is also keen on a dribble, attempting 139 dribbles in the league last term.

The winger is also able to create chances for teammates. He’s managed to provide eight assists during his burgeoning Fiorentina career. He has developed a very good understanding with The Viola’s main forward Giovanni Simeone.

Red Devils boss Mourinho would also like the fact that the wide-man is tenacious enough to work back and throw himself into tackles, although that sometimes sees the Italian international catch the attention of the referee.

The talented forward won’t come cheap, Fiorentina might be willing to sell their top assets but they no longer need to haggle over the price. They reportedly rejected a €60m bid from Scudetto winners Juventus this summer.

If Manchester United are indeed interested in the young Italian hot-shot then they better act quickly as Chelsea are supposedly ready to battle it out with Juve and Inter Milan for his signature. The list of admirers will only grow as he seems set to continue to showcase his wide variety of talents.

I’d argue that United’s need is greater than the others interested and the twenty year old meets all the requirements that would interest the club’s hierarchy as well as Jose Mourinho. For me, he’d offer them something that they don’t have on the right wing and would be a player that would excite the Red Devils support.

 

Leno’s Arsenal Europa League Adventure Could Be First Step To Unseat Cech

When Arsenal splashed out around £22m for German goalkeeper Bernd Leno it was expected that he’d instantly dethrone incumbent number one Petr Cech.

New Gunners boss Unai Emery has respectfully given Cech his backing and has played the Czech Republic legend in each of his opening five Premier League games.

The Spanish coach clearly has a game plan in mind for his new team and that involves the goalie being able to play short passes from inside the penalty area. Veteran Cech isn’t familiar with that style and he’s looked uncomfortable at times when the ball has been played back to his feet.

Twenty-six year old Leno is more used to being a sweeper keeper. Last season in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen Bernd recorded a 66.7%passing success rate, which was slightly higher than Cech’s 65.4%. Perhaps more significantly, the German internationalist made on average ten passes more per game that Petr.

It’s being reported that the new summer signing could make his debut in the Europa League tomorrow against Ukrainian side FC Vorskla Poltava.

Leno has to make this opportunity count and show that he’s primed to become Arsenal’s longterm number one.

The shot stopper has to use Thursday nights to show that he can be assured on the ball and give the defence added confidence when they too have possession. Czech’s early season mistakes have the fans gasping and that nervousness then engulfs the team.

If Bernd can bring much needed stability to the Gunners backline then Arsenal’s manager will have a tough decision to make.

As I said, Emery has arrived at The Emirates with a clear plan to be better in possession and that includes having a goalkeeper that’s able to clear his lines efficiently with short range passes to teammates.

When the keeper arrived in the summer, Unai Emery said:

“Bernd is a goalkeeper of high quality and experience,” 

“He has been a top performer and regular number one goalkeeper for the past seven years.”

So the Spaniard clearly brought in Bernd Leno to add stiff competition in the goalkeeping department. I understand why the Gunners’ gaffer has decided to keep Cech in between the sticks but the thirty-six year old’s place shouldn’t be guaranteed without question.

Leno might not be overly called upon against Vorskla but whenever he is, the German has to be up to the task and he needs to impress.

If he can shine in the Europa League and Petr Cech continues to make sloppy mistakes with his ball control and passing then I fully expect the torch to be passed on!

 

Man United Need To Spank Young Boys & Lay Down A Champions League Marker

Manchester United will be taking on Swiss champions BSC Young Boys in Bern tonight as they kick-off their Champions League campaign.

The last time United were in European action they limply succumbed to Sevilla and exited Europe’s most elite club competition at the Round of Sixteen stage. Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho can’t allow his team to be anything but ready for this tilt at the title.

Man Utd need to start off well and they need to give their fans something to cheer for, their start to the Premier League season has been pretty mixed and an entertaining, winning start in Europe could be a welcome distraction for everyone at the club.

Now United’s only blemish in the group stages last term came in Switzerland, as FC Basel managed to beat Jose’s men 1-0 at St Jacob-Park. Man United can’t afford a similar defeat to occur this evening.

They come into the encounter after two good away results in the league, so Mourinho and his side do have that to build on.

Top stars like Alexis Sanchez, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku need to turn up and perform. What United really need is a swashbuckling performance that blows away the opposition and makes other teams in Europe sit up and take notice.

The forward line have to create chances and importantly they also need to be ruthless and put away those chances.

In defence, Manchester United have looked vulnerable. The back four need to have a solid outing and show that they can work as a cohesive unit. They’ve so far only managed to keep one cleansheet in their opening five games. In total they have scored eight and conceded eight, that’s simply not good enough!

If Man United want to be taken seriously, both at home and abroad, then they need to start laying down markers and dominating fixtures. They’ve certainly got the personnel to do it.

An issue could be their manager Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese coach is a fine boss and has a fantastic CV but he still needs to find his preferred starting eleven at Old Trafford and get the most out of his squad.

The pragmatic gaffer needs to loosen the leash a little bit, give his side a chance to be more creative and give them licence to go out and attack opponents starting with Young Boys tonight. Maybe just maybe, Mourinho can look at his defensive problems and say that attack really is the best form of defence.

Obviously you can’t treat the Swiss champs likely but you should be thinking that it’s a winnable game and that you can do that with some entertaining football.

Young Boys coach Gerardo Seoane has stated that his team will think about themselves and won’t be overawed by their illustrious opponents:

“We focus on ourselves and of course we’re playing against a very good team. It is a difficult task, but we’ll try to be active. We’ll play with courage. We can’t do that for the whole game, but that is how we want to play,”

In turn, United have to breakdown their opponents and try and boss the match with a high tempo.

With Serie A winners Juventus and Spanish cracks Valencia also in Group H, it could be imperative that Manchester United get off to a winning start in Bern!

Full-back Marcos Alonso Still Shining For Chelsea

Chelsea are flying high under new boss Maurizio Sarri, sitting top of the Premier League winning all five of their opening matches.

Impressively the backline have seamlessly went from a back three to a four and they look just as assured.

They also seem to get the same benefits from Marcos Alonso, the influential Spaniard has moved from the left-sided wing back role to the club’s new left back.

Playing further forward under old gaffer Antonio Conte certainly seemed to work wonders as he produced eleven league goals and five assists in his first two years at Stamford Bridge.

Yet under Italian coach Sarri, Alonso is still able to get forward and get involved in his team’s attacking play. His link up play, particularly with Eden Hazard, is fantastic and his engine to get up and down the touchline is also highly commendable.

The twenty-seven year old is still able to get forward because Maurizio’s playing style depends on them bossing possession and keeping the ball mainly in the opposition’s half. Alonso himself has been more efficient with his passing, his pass success rate his up at 86.7% and that’s with him making more passes too.

He’s already managed to get on the scoresheet during this campaign, in Chelsea’s win over Arsenal, and also has two assists to his name.

While Marcos has worked a bit harder on the defensive side of his game, the stats are still on par with what The Blues have come to expect from the Spanish international. The defender (loosely) does well in aerial duels and he’s also averaging around 1.6 tackles per Premier League appearance, which is slightly up on his stats from last year.

Marcos Alonso gives Chelsea an added dimension in attack when he overlaps. His neat small passes and his crosses into the box are constantly putting opposition teams on the back foot. His eagerness to get involved is also a blessing for his forward thinking teammates, especially in tight matches.

His manager seems to be delighted with the left back’s performances, although Maurizio Sarri also added That Marcos could still improved defensively:

“Alonso, at the moment, this position at left-back is maybe the best in Europe,”  

“Physical qualities at a top level, I think. He’s doing very well in the offensive phase. But I also think he can improve in the defensive phase. If he improves that, he could be the best left-back in the world.”

It’s testament to Alonso’s abilities and his concentration levels that he can be moved to a supposedly more defensive left-back slot and still contribute as much as he does going forward, yet the team still don’t look vulnerable at the back!

If Liverpool Win Champions League Midfield Battle Then They’ll Beat PSG

With Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino on one side and Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Neymar on the other, plenty of people are expecting a high scoring game at Anfield tonight as Liverpool host PSG in the Champions League.

Both clubs have talented German bosses that like to oversee exciting, attacking football and both teams have won all their opening league fixtures. It really should be an entertaining match (let’s hope I’ve haven’t just jinxed it!).

For me, the home side should have the upper hand as long as they win the midfield battle.

The two European giants have favoured the 4-3-3 formation so far this term. In said formation, winning the midfield area could prove vital in gaining the victory.

I think Liverpool edge it in the engine room as they’ve got harder working players.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has very strong options to choose from:

James Milner has been in sensational form at the beginning of this campaign. The veteran always seems to have the energy to run all game, putting in an endless amount of tackles and passes. He’ll press the opposition and won’t give them a minute to think. No player in last season’s Champions League bettered Milner’s eight assists stat.

Club captain Jordan Henderson is another one that gives his all. He keeps the ball efficiently and is another one that doesn’t mind putting a foot in and winning the ball back for his side. The English international is also good in the air and that could be advantageous as PSG aren’t the best in aerial duels.

Dutch internationalist Georginio Wijnaldum is another midfielder that has a strong work ethic. The twenty-seven year old has the ability to get forward and grab a goal. He’s been an ever present in the Premier League so far this term and he’s managed a 92.7% passing success rate in those five outings.

In new signing Naby Keita, Liverpool have another hard worker but the Guinean also has a keen eye for a creative pass. He’s also quick enough to join in counter attacks and become a threat in the last third. The former RB Leipzig man has the energy to get from box to box and that could be extremely important in big European nights.

Liverpool have got another new boy in Fabinho but the Brazilian hasn’t been used yet thus far this term. I’ve stated before that I believe Klopp might use the former AS Monaco man more in the Champions League as he get’s used to life in England. He knows PSG well after his time in Ligue 1 and he offers more defensively. Fabinho is very good at the keeping the ball and a threat when taking set-pieces.

In the opposing team, PSG look at bit frail in that midfield area.

Adrien Rabiot has started this campaign well. He’s winning his fair share of tackles and the Frenchman also possesses a 93% passing success rate. At the moment, Adrien seems to be the main man in the French campions midfield.

Italian international Marco Verratti has just returned to the team and can be another one that makes the team tick but alas the deep lying playmaker is suspended for this tie and will be sorely missed by his teammates.

Veteran middle-man Lassana Diarra has made two appearances during this campaign and he’s still a bit too erratic for my liking. He can commit too many fouls and that usually sees him receiving more bookings than one would like.

Central defender Marquinhos has played a few times in midfield this season and he’s not really convinced. His unfamiliarity in the role has meant that French side have lacked balance.

PSG boss Thomas Tuchel also has a few talented youngsters he can call upon but that could be risky in an environment like Anfield under the lights.

If Jurgen Klopp can get his game plan right, then I fully expect Liverpool to have too much for PSG in the midfield department.

The Reds seem to have the legs, the work ethic and the tactical nous to provide their opponents with some tough questions.

That doesn’t mean that the English side can switch off for a second. One slip up could be pounced upon by Messrs Mbappe, Cavani and Neymar!

It really should be an intriguing and thrilling encounter and I think Liverpool should just about edge it.

Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths Needs To Prove Scotland Point On The Pitch!

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths has stated that he’s annoyed that Hearts hitman Steven Naismith has been promised the Scotland number nine jersey by Alex McLeish, for the next UEFA Nations League game against Israel next month:

“It’s a kick in the teeth. Not just for me but for all the strikers.”

“It’s an incentive to work hard at our clubs and try to change his mind.”

“I was surprised as well but these things happen.”

“Naisy came in and did really well. He scored, ran about, and did his job.”

“I was a bit surprised to see he (McLeish) has already selected him for the next game.”

Now I get why the Scotland boss might feel Naismith warrants keeping the starting berth, he worked hard against Albania; scoring one and playing a huge part in the opener as the Scots won 2-0 at Hampden. If a player does well, then it makes sense that they keep their place in the team. Personally, I don’t think he should have said it. A month is a long time in football, by all means keep him in the team but make that decision closer to kick-off.

Who knows what will happen between now and the tie against Israel? Players can get injured and forms can change in that period. Naismith wasn’t even in Alex’s initial squad for those last fixtures!

I can see why Griffiths would feel aggrieved. I’m delighted that he’s added that he will put his head down and prove his point on the pitch. Other players have thrown their toys out of the pram and just quit international football because of similar snubs.

Leigh proved himself in the World Cup qualifiers, when he got the chance to lead the line for the Tartan Army. His two goals against England were particularly pleasing. In total he scored four times, all coming in 2017.

His goalscoring record with Scottish Premiership champions Celtic has been sensational, he’s banged in 100 goals in 191 appearances for The Hoops.

The twenty-nine year old has continually improved under Brendan Rodgers. He’s smarter, fitter, works harder and worked on his hold up and link up play.

The forward needs to come out fighting, he’s yet to score in the league this term and that stat needs to change. Naismith has scored five times in the Premiership for league leaders Hearts and he’s also produced three assists for teammates.

Griffiths also has the Europa League to think about with Celtic, if he scores regularly in that competition against teams like RB Leipzig, Rosenborg and Red Bull Salzburg then it once again proves that he can do it in the tough encounters.

Another thing that the Hoops hitman needs to do is train with distinction when the Scotland training camp starts next month. He needs to shine in front of McLeish and the Scotland coaching set-up.

If he doesn’t start against Israel, then he needs to take his chance if he comes on during the match. He has the pace and the ability to stretch and commit tired defences.

I’m glad that Leigh Griffiths is frustrated about his Scotland snub, I’m delighted he hasn’t gone in a huff and I’m ecstatic that he’s determined to prove his worth. That can only be a good thing for Celtic and Scotland in the long run.